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Ecozen set up to save the world ‘one pool at a time’

WHEN he graduated from Queensland’s Griffith University, armed with horticultural qualifications and an Environmental Science degree in the 1990s, Sean Lynch knew he wanted to change the way built environments interfaced with the natural world – for the better.

He chose pools as his canvas, figuring he could make a positive impact upon the chemical-laden practices of the time. How right he proved to be, taking a lead in applying new technologies and sustainability practices after he founded Ecozen Pools and Landscapes in 1999. 

In fact, so successful has his approach been – winning Ecozen a range of iconic sustainable pool projects – that it has accelerated his commercial success to the point where he recently purchased one of Queensland’s most successful rival businesses. In September Ecozen took over the reins of the Maroochydore Pool Fab business which has dominated the Sunshine Coast as a supplier of quality pools for more than 30 years.

“I feel a particular affinity toward the Sunshine Coast because this is where I grew up,” Mr Lynch said.

“Families are on the hunt for ways to reduce electricity costs but still maintain an outdoor lifestyle. New trends in swimming pool construction have made pools far more eco-friendly and cost effective with clients now reaping the reward of saving dollars on the power bills.”

Ecozen has been a leader in providing technologically advanced eco-smart solutions – and these are included at no extra cost in its custom-designed pools. Mr Lynch has built a reputation for incorporating sustainability beyond the pool by integrating water-conscious landscaping and solar power generation that is often set up to supply the premises and the grid.

“Our focus is to provide the best tried and tested environmentally conscious technology with each of our pool packages so we take price out of the purchase equation as a unique value-add benefit for our clients,” Mr Lynch said.

“We offer the latest in cutting edge expertise with our fresh water pool sanitisation systems partnered with energy efficient variable speed eco-pumps. Our eco-smart systems reduce chemical use, chemical output into the environment and save money through the reduction in operating costs.”

Mr Lynch is a firm believer in environmentally sustainable pool technology and how eco-smart carbon offset pools and landscapes hold immense value for clients and the community.

“This is the way the future is heading, not just to appease environmentalists, but because of necessity and practicality,” he said. “An environmentally friendly outdoor garden and entertaining space is growing in desirability and is one that will always be a smart and a cost-effective long-term choice.

“Today’s clients insist on innovative designs that embrace eco-friendly practices. With energy costs rising, the most eco-friendly thing you can do with your pool is to reduce its energy consumption and demand therefore achieving significant savings to the home energy budget,” Mr Lynch said.

“Through the understanding of science and ecology and using the latest technology to deliver low energy costs, these days a ‘green’ – that is, an environmentally friendly and highly energy efficient – pool is the way of the future.”

He said through water loss, energy consumption and pollution, pools and gardens can be a heavy strain on natural resources, but by incorporating new and innovative products and design features into their pools, homeowners can make a vast difference and be a part of a global initiative to live sustainably.

“The natural waterways that we have in our state are not ours to destroy through needless chemical contamination but are our responsibility to protect for future generations,” Mr Lynch said.. “Our community is now more educated about the impact we have on our planet and with this awareness comes a responsibility to do our share to preserve our natural environment.

“When designing a pool and landscape space, clients now want to achieve a green design. Clients are now asking, ‘What can we do to make our pool and outdoor space more eco-smart?’” 

 “We combine water-wise plant design with site placement to reduce evaporation, watering needs and upkeep costs. The permaculture approach to our landscape designs utilises systems such as co-efficient planting,” Mr Lynch said.

“We plant trees and other plants that benefit each other via natural pest control and water catchment. Our vision is to create sustainable self-sufficient sites that provide all the water, energy, fruit and vegetable requirements a house needs.”

Mr Lynch said Ecozen always included options for the installation of solar panels to harvest energy required to operate pool and lighting systems.

“We can also offer energy positive pool and landscape packages,” Mr Lynch said. “If we can harvest more solar energy than the pool and landscape lighting systems require, we are creating a positive feedback of harvested kilowatt energy back into the home and the community power grid.

“A water-wise garden is easy to create and has numerous benefits. Not only does it save water and resources, it also saves time and money on maintenance and you require less fertiliser and pesticides. It is better for the environment, and better for you.”

www.ecozen.com.au

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Aussie thongs innovator rebrands as Boomerangz

GOLD COAST-BASED Willi Footwear – whose double-plug thong designs have won acclaim from hundreds of thousands of loyal Australian customers – is re-branding to expand into global markets as ‘Boomerangz’.

The name stems from the boomerang-shaped plugs that are employed to solve an age-old problem that wearers of Australian thongs have dubbed ‘the blowout’ – the strap plugs disengaging through the rubber sole.

The idea that came to creator Brad Munro, as he dealt with a busted thong many years ago outside a German pub, is now set to become a global business under the new brand. 

Mr Munro saw the need for a better-designed ‘plugga’ and in 2014 launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to get his vision off the ground. The idea resonated and a wildly successful campaign allowed Mr Munro to launch his revolutionary design with boomerang-shaped plugs that greatly minimise the odds of blowouts. 

Launched as Willi Footwear, the business has grown almost 100 percent year-on-year with no signs of slowing down.  After gaining considerable market share and a loyal fan base in Australia, the business has its sights set on global expansion.

However, facing trademarks issues in the US with founding name, Willi, the rebrand as Boomerangz is believed to better communicate the company’s roots through both the distinctive Aussie emblem, as well as the revolutionary design of its boomerang-shaped plugs. 

Mr Munro said Boomerangz ‘flip flops’ are now available for purchase in the US where he  has established relationships with many retailers, including Amazon, and opened a distribution site in Florida. They are   also available in the UK and are being trialled in Indian and Chinese markets, as well as the Caribbean.  

Mr Munro said it was costly exercise to explore international markets but he hoped to continue this upward trend and have the product available to consumers worldwide. 

“We know from research that thong blow-outs are a worldwide complaint, it’s not an issue that’s exclusive to Australia, so we see our range as a global product,” Mr Munro said.

“It’s also a seasonal product, so we really do need to leverage off the northern hemisphere summer in order to create a year-round income and be able to continue production.”

Mr Munro said despite the global push, Boomerangz has not forgotten its loyal Australian market. A new deal with City Beach has landed the brand in a further 20 locations across Queensland, NSW and the Northern Territory, and Boomerangz is also introducing a new range of interchangeable upmarket women’s sandal straps.

The footwear brand is also working with a new factory to improve further on rubber quality in its products “to ensure there will be even happier feet this summer in Australia, and across the globe” Mr Munro said.

He said Boomerangz had a market advantage in the way its products minimised the common problems of other brands of flip flops on the market. Boomerangz patented boomerang-shaped plugs help prevent the straps from snapping, as well as give the ability to easily change the straps to different colours, accommodating a market that is increasingly looking for customisable options.

www.boomerangzflipflops.com

www.boomerangzthongs.com.au

 

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Game changer: Joinlox technology breathes new life into key infrastructure

JOINLOX has already quietly started a global revolution in materials joining-technologies. Now the Australian innovator is set to apply its award-winning bio-mimicry systems to a global sector of urgent need: infrastructure built on aged and degrading marine piles.

The significance of Joinlox’s PileJax marine infrastructure system is only now dawning upon government and industry owners of critical infrastructure such as road and rail bridges, ports and wharves. 

PileJax is an ingenious system that cost-effectively repairs and extends the life by decades of ageing pile-supported assets – a game changer for regions struggling with infrastructure that is near end-of-life or damaged by severe weather events.

PileJax has already been used by Queensland Rail to extend the service life of many of its bridges by decades – and at a fraction of the cost of replacement. So has Gold Coast City Council, with hundreds of bridges across its canal system – most built by developers in the 1970s and 80s – now coming under scrutiny.

Having completed dozens of successful projects around Australia, the company has now launched into the US and Canadian markets where this ageing infrastructure issue has reached crisis point. 

Mr Pettigrew said the company had already been accredited by several State transport authorities, US Federal Government bodies and other large infrastructure owners, all keen to leverage off the cost savings of repairing with the PileJax systems instead of facing the huge replacement cost of vital bridges, wharves and ports.

“The problem exists where, say,  you have built a port 30, 40 or 50 years ago and you have been generally maintaining it and painting it and doing what you needed to do,” Mr Pettigrew said. “A bridge or a wharf has typically been built with a design life of 30-to-40-to-50 years, and that timeline is either fast approaching or has, in many cases, been well overtaken. The asset owner, whether they be a private company or a public or government body, really would prefer to get another 25 or even 50 years out of it.

“Rather than having to replace, we repair,” Mr Pettigrew said. “It’s a game changer.”

HOW PILEJAX WORKS

PileJax is one of those elegant engineering and construction solutions that sounds so simple you wonder why no-one has done it before.

The answer to that is the genius of the Joinlox joining technologies developed by Brisbane-based inventor Dean Urquhart who co-founded Joinlox and who still develops and refines these technologies for the company. Mr Pettigrew often describes the technology as “like a huge industrial strength zipper”. 

In essence, Joinlox technology mimics the way clam shells close – with precise ease and strength – and hence its PileJax application completes an installation quickly and without the need for specialised tools.

The technology has also been used to create a wide range of new furniture and hardware assembly products under the Striplox brand, which is set to revolutionise the way construction, cabinetry, furniture, fit-out and other related industries manufacture, transport and install.

“There are plenty of ways that pile repairs have been undertaken to date, whether it be conventional form work or concreting around the piles and wrapping things around them, like bandages and tapes and things,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“What we have just done is taken completely proven FRP (fibreglass reinforced plastic) composite materials, then developed them and manufactured in such a way that they can be joined to form a strong single piece jacket. You have got a pile that is both above and below the waterline, plus it is actually fixed there. You can’t slide something over the top, obviously, because you’ve got a bridge or a deck of some description there.

“So we clean the pile down, whether it be timber or concrete or steel, as PileJax is suitable for all three materials. We fit our jacket over it, in situ.

“We fit fit the jacket using barges on the surface and divers under the water. It’s amazing to think that the biggest cost of all this is the divers in the water. By using our joint, we can actually have our PileJax product fully pre-manufactured so that when it gets to the site it is ready to go – plug and play.

“The diver simply secures it around a pile and within just a few minutes taps in the (Joinlox) locking key. So the only tool required is a rubber mallet and a couple of minutes of diver time versus other traditional means that can involve hours or days to wrap or to encase each pile.”

Each jacket is custom-manufactured for the job and one of the side-benefits is the units could incorporate new styling elements, if required. 

“We may have, say, a wooden pile which could be 500mm diameter and between 6m and 15m high. Instead of wrapping something directly on to the timber, what we do is, if the pile of 500mm diameter, we’ll make our jacket 600mm diameter. So you have got about a 50mm clearance on either side,” Mr Pettigrew explained.

The wooden pile would then be cleaned, and ground down where elements would infringe on the 600mm jacket, then a special fibreglass epoxy mix is pumped into the space between the degraded pile and the jacket.

“That epoxy goes off and cures and bonds the jacket effectively to the pile,” Mr Pettigrew said. “The jacket remains in place to protect and sometimes strengthen the pile and becomes an impermeable barrier to oxygen or water, stopping anything getting in to the pile.

“It arrests the degradation, or the rotting, or whatever it might be, and protects it for another 25 years into the future.”

Joinlox quotes its PileJax life extension as having a design life of 25 years, but that is conservative, Mr Pettigrew admitted.

“Based on the materials, the testing and the science behind the materials, it could very well be much longer than that,” he said.

“If a bridge was built with a 40-year design life, rather than having to spend the money to replace that bridge, if you can get another 20-plus years out of it by spending a fraction of the cost of replacement then that’s when it becomes demonstrable, the savings, from a capital perspective,” Mr Pettigrew said. “That’s really the value proposition of the PileJax products.”

CRACKING US MARKET, FOR STARTERS

Through agents and trade distributors in North America, Joinlox was able to gain traction for its Striplox products – which are currently all manufactured in Australia and exported – and PileJax has also made inroads through representation.

“It is a completely different business model, but PileJax is the product of a bunch of systems that is enabled by the Joinlox technology,” Mr Pettigrew said. “It is productised into a system that may not be a very sexy niche, but it is certainly a very big one.

“We did not sit here and say, little Aussie company let’s go to the US … We actually looked around at all the international markets and started to make some introductions and some soundings. Overwhelmingly the Americans and the Canadians said, you have got to come here … the market is ripe for you guys to be here.

“It’s a very big market that is very accepting of Aussie innovation. We were welcomed with open arms. It’s no cake walk. It’s still bloody hard work. But we have managed to crack that market by selling through a local distributor.

“We market to the asset owners, to the consulting engineers – who are working for the asset owners to repair and remediate their assets – and then to the civil contractors who do the works,” he said. “So we have got a market for all three. Typically our transaction will be selling the materials to the principal contractor but we’ve got to market to and convince all three layers. 

“It is an engineered product, so there is a technical sale, and it is project driven, but our job is to explain it to the asset owners and the project consultants.”

Mr Pettigrew said, on examination, the future of PileJax looked extremely bright, based on the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report. It showed US ports planned to spend US$154.8 billion in the 2016-2020 period on expansion, modernisation and repair to handle growing trade demands. The Panama Canal expansion would bolster this demand, having opened its Panamax sized locks in mid-2016, he said.

“Coming inland, the opportunities only increase, with the average age of the nation’s road bridges now 43 years,” Mr Pettigrew said. Research identified 56,007 locations – that is 9.1 percent of the US bridge population of 614,387 –were now rated as structurally deficient,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“The investment backlog price tag of US$123 billion (A$164 billion) is the amount of spending required to fix the sub-standard bridges in the US alone.”

PileJax has also sold its system successfully to US Army Corps of Engineers and the Australian company is working with the Corps for future supply.

Joinlox, as a small Australian company,  has been successful in new product markets as much from the collaborative way in which it does business as the innovation built into its products, Mr Pettigrew said.

He could see great opportunities for Joinlox to partner and collaborate with other Australian companies to accelerate markets together..

“I’d like somebody to say, hey, look at what Joinlox is doing … we are kind of doing the same thing … or maybe they could use our technology in their products or we could help them market in the US,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“Whether it be marketing or strategic or technical, we are always looking to partner up and collaborate here and internationally.”

www.joinlox.com

EXTRA >>

FUNDING GROWTH

Joinlox has instigated a $5 million capital raise to fund its international expansion plans. 

“Increased construction confidence, ageing infrastructure issues and the revival of the minerals sector are all well publicised macro-segments that are in line with our strategies and we feel Joinlox is now well placed capitalise on these,” Joinlox CEO John Pettigrew said.

“This funding round will be used to build the company’s distribution, marketing and presence on the ground to accelerate growth throughout North America and other international markets.

“The company has an enviable pipeline of new products that Joinlox plans to bring to market and penetrate various construction and industry sectors,” he said.

“With such an exciting future and capacity to continue to scale into large export markets, this innovative home-grown company has its sights on a potential IPO in the near future.”

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Michael Phelps on starting blocks for Medibio board

AUSTRALIAN Securities Exchange-listed Medibio Limited has enlisted the world’s most successful Olympic swimmer, American Michael Phelps, to assist in the promotion of its diagnostic products for depression, chronic stress and other mental health disorders.

Since retiring from competitive swimming in 2016, Mr Phelps has actively sought to raise awareness around mental health. He said joining Australian innovator Medibio’s board was a natural next step in his professional journey. 

“I am honoured to accept this appointment because I have personally experienced Medibio’s technology and believe it can help make a profound impact in diagnosing mental health and empowering people to seek the help and support they may need,” Mr Phelps said.

“In sports, there is so much focus on the physical aspects of performance, and athletes are analyzed from head to toe.  But for many athletes, mental health has not been a topic of focus, and the data analysis aspect of it has been missing up until now.  

“I personally suffered from mental health challenges from my teenage years on, and only fairly recently — after reaching a point of desperation — did I acquire the understanding, treatment, and support I needed, which has truly changed my life.  For me, self-awareness, from a mental health standpoint, is empowerment.

“But I’ve seen firsthand — in sports and beyond — how difficult it is for people to understand, discuss, and confront stress, anxiety, and mental health concerns, all of which can seem like an insurmountable barrier to getting the help and support that is needed,” Mr Phelps said.

“I feel that the ease and objectivity with which Medibio’s technology can accurately help to diagnose mental health will make a profound difference in people’s lives. I want to help others who are dealing with these challenges and make the process for them to take action easier and more understandable.”   

Prior to his appointment to Medibio’s board of directors, Mr Phelps worked with its team of world-class doctors and medical experts to explore ways in which Medibio’s technology could help address the challenges associated with the identification and treatment of various mental health issues. 

“We are thrilled to have Michael join our board of directors,Medibio managing director and CEO Jack Cosentino said.

“His joining the board of directors brings recognition and validates the great need for objective mental health diagnosis that we offer through our industry-leading technology.  His lifelong dedication to excellence in the pool, his advocacy for mental health, and his understanding of data-driven solutions will provide a great addition to our board. Michael’s significant public profile will raise substantial awareness of mental health challenges and the real, tangible solutions that Medibio’s diagnostics can provide.” 

Widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all-time, Mr Phelps has dedicated his time, fame, and focus to a number of philanthropic causes including water safety, mental health, and anti-doping initiatives. His advocacy for mental health recently earned the recognition of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as the honorary chairperson of National Mental Health Awareness Day 2017. In addition, Mr Phelps is an ambassador for the Child Mind Institute’s #MyYoungerSelf social media campaign in an effort to help end the stigmas associated with mental health and learning disorders.

Medibio’s depression diagnostic is being validated in clinical studies undertaken by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The University of Ottawa. The clinical trials will support Medibio’s application to become the first FDA approved, objective, and evidence-based approach to the diagnosis of mental health disorders.

In addition to its ASX listing, Medibio will seek to trade on the OTCQB Venture Market securities exchange in New York, under the ticker MDBIF.

www.medbio.com.au

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